On the last week of school there were four teenage boys tossing a tennis ball to each other. They were walking kind of “Sex In The City” style all in a row just laughing and smiling. Everyone’s heart started racing and I saw teachers putting themselves in front of their small students, once they spotted the boys headed their way. Soon the conversations teacher were having with each other came to screaching halt and everyone’s eyes were on the boys. One teacher who was leading Car Rider duty got on his megaphone and yelled “Go On Boys. This is an elementary school you can’t be here.” The boys kept walking. He said again “I said you can’t be here. Can I help you with something?!”. The boys kept walking. Some other teachers started to walk towards the boys before they got too close to the students who were sitting outside waiting on their parents to pick them up. Once the boys finally got close enough to be heard one boy said, “I’m just here to pick up my little sister”. His little sister cheerfully jumped up hugged her brother and waved goodbye to her friends. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. (Wipes brow) “Wheew, they weren’t thugs”!
Really?! Is this the story of our young black men? With all the craziness we hear on the news everyday about teens killing each other, shooters in schools, fights, and the like, where does it leave our young black men?
In this true story no one knew anything about these boys who inoccently were just playing catch. His mother entrusted him to protect the life of his little young sister and get her home. But because he had the look “ear length dreads, white t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers”, everyone was on edge. Everyone was waiting in anticipation for him to do something wrong. Everyone sat back and was ready to be reactive to what they felt was about to be “a situation”.
How often do we fail our young black men for being themselves; reactive rather than proactive? We wait for them to determine who they’re going to be. We wait for them to let society define them. We wait for them to determine what they are going to be. We wait for them to fall into the cracks. We wait for them to try to dig themselves back out and we sit and watch and shake our heads and say “Mmm, mmm, mmm, why does it always have to be us” by us meaning black.
Every black boy is NOT a thug. Every black boy has the ability to lead, to be strong, to be great. Every black boy has the ability to be consistent, determined, and successful. We have to train them. We have to get involved. We have to not be afraid to walk up to them and speak and to pour into their lives. This is our responsibility and no one else’s.
Let’s reclaim our boys. Let’s remember what we value and TEACH them. Let’s be honest about the world we live in. Let’s help them to be resilient against people who judge them based on a cultural appearance.
Let’s raise the bar.